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PFT Preseason Power Rankings No. 9: New Orleans Saints

Sean Payton AP

The Saints have some obvious issues.

But they have their leader, and their edge back.

After a year’s suspension, head coach Sean Payton is back, and the Saints feel like they have something to prove after last year’s 7-9 mess.

They have a new defensive scheme, which seems like a good move, since they had the worst statistical defense in NFL history last year. The bigger question is whether they have the parts in place to make it work.

Strengths.

The Saints have one of the top offenses in the game, and the brains behind it all made his way back to the sidelines.

Between quarterback Drew Brees, wide receiver Marques Colston, tight end Jimmy Graham and a group of role-filling running backs, the Saints have the capability of dropping 40 on you any Sunday.

But the biggest boost is getting Payton back. It’s not that other people are incapable of calling the same plays. It’s more than Payton and Brees have that kind of Bill Walsh-Joe Montana vibe, where the whole is greater than the sum of two very good parts.

There was clearly something missing last year, but they’re back together, and ready to do their part to fixing things.

Weaknesses.

Then, on the other hand, you have the other side of the ball.

Which is frankly a mess.

They needed to make more changes than they were able to make this offseason, though bringing in cornerback Keenan Lewis in free agency and drafting safety Kenny Vaccaro was a good start to fixing things from the back to the front.

But about that front.

Converting to Rob Ryan’s 3-4 system could be problematic, because the guys they kept aren’t perfect fits.

Trying to turn Will Smith into an outside linebacker seems like an effort to jackhammer a square peg into a round hole. They lost perhaps their best chance at a consistent pass rush when former Cowboys backup Victor Butler tore an ACL during OTAs (O-U-C-H). Trying to figure out to do with linebacker Jonathan Vilma, who took a pay cut to stay for a role he’s not really suited for, is another challenge.

But once they decided to part ways with former defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, which seemed inevitable, the act of changing took precedence over whether the change was the right one.

Changes.

By shipping out Chris Ivory to the Jets, the Saints streamlined a crowded running back room.

Now, they might actually find something for former Mark Ingram to do.

Pierre Thomas will likely continue to start, and Darren Sproles will get his touches in space, but getting something from the former first-rounder would be a benefit.

The Saints are never going to feature the run game as prominently as the other three teams in their division, but Ingram looks like a waste of draft currency at this point.

And while a subtle difference, they’re also looking for a new backup quarterback after Chase Daniel left for Kansas City.

They’re still in a bind if anything happens to Brees, but Daniel was a better Plan B than the current cast of Seneca Wallace and Luke McCown, who are nothing more than place-holders.

Camp Battles.

When your top asset is your quarterback, having uncertainty at left tackle is not the best spot to be in.

But after losing Jermon Bushrod (and line coach Aaron Kromer) to the Bears in free agency, the Saints are looking at a number of options.

Incumbent replacement Charles Brown probably has the lead at this point, but he’s never been able to stay on the field. Former No. 2 overall pick Jason Smith was added to the mix, but there’s a reason he’s on his third team in a year. The most intriguing option might be third-rounder Terron Armstead, an athletic project with the most pass-blocking upside.

As good as their offense could be, that’s a big question mark to begin the season with.

Finding someone to play outside linebacker sure would help, and holdouts such as Junior Galette and Martez Wilson have a chance to take on a bigger role, in the absence of a veteran option.

Prospects.

The Saints are going to score a pile of points.

Between the talent on hand and the chip on the shoulder, that’s a given.

The degree to which they can stem the flow of points going the other direction will determine how successful they’re going to be this season.

The Saints didn’t have enough draft picks or cap room to make the necessary fixes to a horrible defense, and they can only hope to move all the way up to insufficient.

But their offense will be so good that such a move might be enough to get them back to the playoffs.

Perhaps as importantly as anything, they’re able to focus on football this season, which should be a huge relief and motivator to everyone in the organization.

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40 Responses to “PFT Preseason Power Rankings No. 9: New Orleans Saints”
  1. expertop says: Jul 20, 2013 3:11 PM

    The rest of the power rankings had a least a whiff of reality to them. The Saints at #9? You’re out of your minds.

  2. wisportsfanpbbb says: Jul 20, 2013 3:13 PM

    The Saints are a bit of an enigma to me. They can look so dominant at times and be worthless at others. I don’t think Ryan is the answer for their troubled defense. Sean Payton’s return should help, but unless Brees can recapture his Superbowl season magic and cut down his picks it could be another disappointing season.

  3. youarejealousof6rings says: Jul 20, 2013 3:18 PM

    Worst defense ever.

  4. unbiasfan says: Jul 20, 2013 3:24 PM

    The Saints didn’t even make the playoffs….and their defense had one of the most historically worst seasons in yards given up of all time..

  5. patriots123456 says: Jul 20, 2013 3:25 PM

    There were 15 Teams that didn’t have a losing record last year. The Saints weren’t one of them.

    So #9 seems a little high to me.

    I think they will do better this year, but let them earn it before we rank them in the top 10. IMO.

  6. dan39564 says: Jul 20, 2013 3:48 PM

    There are a lot if IF’s to this team, but I think this is the right spot!

  7. bchapman2011 says: Jul 20, 2013 3:50 PM

    How can you rank a team that has the worst defense in the NFL as the #9 team. This team is a train wreck. Their defense is horrible and the offense is aging. Not even a playoff team.

  8. msclemons67 says: Jul 20, 2013 3:57 PM

    Without Payton the offense dropped a bit but it was still a very potent unit. The offense was far from broken and it was not the weak spot on the team.

    Without bounties the defense dropped from middle of the road to historically bad. The Saints didn’t make many moves to fix that.

    #9 seems at least 6 spots too high.

  9. purplegreenandgold says: Jul 20, 2013 4:00 PM

    as I counted the teams that made the playoffs last yearI placed the Saints 9th overall this season and after all this IS still July.

  10. bgrab1 says: Jul 20, 2013 4:03 PM

    Anyone counting what went down with the Saints last year has their head in the sand. The Saints had both head coach and GM and assistant head coach suspended last year over Roger Goodell’s nonsense. Before last year they have been knocking at the door of the NFC championship were it not for losing home field advantage to the NFC West based on bogus tie breakers. The Saints are at least a top 10 team even with a questionable defense. Should the defense actually pan out there is danger on the horizon for the rest of the NFL.

  11. jamesefallen says: Jul 20, 2013 4:03 PM

    Your ranking seems to suggest Sean Payton will provide a tremendous boost to the Saints. What position does he play again? Way too high.

  12. saints12013 says: Jul 20, 2013 4:10 PM

    Ok let me break it down. The Saints didn’t have their head coach last year as well as other coaches being absent. No GM. The Bountygate crap loomed all offseason and still almost finished .500.

  13. saints12013 says: Jul 20, 2013 4:12 PM

    Take away Mike McCarthy from the Packers and see how they do cause their “D” isn’t great either. Take Belichick away from N.E. and see how they do. Or Coughlin away from N.Y. and see how they do.

  14. saints12013 says: Jul 20, 2013 4:20 PM

    I don’t think most people realize how much a head coach means to a team. We should’ve been the worst team in the league last year with all sanctions we faced. At least last in the South and we ended up tied with Tampa and Carolina, so what does that say about them? And I’ll agree # 9 might be a little too high but there has only been 3 Super Bowl champs since N.O. won it.

  15. glynners says: Jul 20, 2013 4:21 PM

    Even in ranking us high you miss out that front 3 of Jordan, Bunkley / Jenkins, Hicks is ready made for the 3-4. This defence will be nowhere near as bad as last year. And all they need is a ranking somewhere between average and poor to make the Saints a 10/11 win again. The offence is still top 3

  16. saints12013 says: Jul 20, 2013 4:58 PM

    The defense was God awful last season because Spagnuolo was the coach. He relies on constant pressure from the front 4 with barely any blitzing. Anybody that watches Saints games knows that’s not how this “D” is gonna be productive. We have an attacking style of personnel.

  17. cincyfan1987 says: Jul 20, 2013 5:10 PM

    Im just wondering where my bengals are

  18. catchhester23 says: Jul 20, 2013 5:17 PM

    I don’t think most people realize how much a head coach means to a team. We should’ve been the worst team in the league last year with all sanctions we faced. At least last in the South and we ended up tied with Tampa and Carolina, so what does that say about them? And I’ll agree # 9 might be a little too high but there has only been 3 Super Bowl champs since N.O. won it.

    Colts seem to handle it a lot better. Ya they were inspired, with a (good) rookie QB. Saints and brees should have been also if Payton did nothing wrong. Plus the colts were 2-14 the year before.

  19. seenoland54 says: Jul 20, 2013 5:26 PM

    Losing record and miss the playoffs with little real improvement and you move them up the ranks from “sitting at home watching the playoffs” to number nine? Remember, everyone else has another year of getting the Brees/Payton system on film. Hardly “an edge”.

  20. jacktheraven says: Jul 20, 2013 5:27 PM

    Seems high to me. 7 wins last year? Hopes are too high with Coach coming back.

  21. nflpoker says: Jul 20, 2013 5:34 PM

    Preseason rankings every year don’t mean anything anyway. The sports media has to write something everyday to justify their existence. They could have ranked #31 and #32 as #1 and #2 instead, for all the difference it makes. The “experts” usually aren’t, so that is why they play the games.

  22. killface4prez says: Jul 20, 2013 5:38 PM

    There were 15 Teams that didn’t have a losing record last year. The Saints weren’t one of them.

    So #9 seems a little high to me.

    I think they will do better this year, but let them earn it before we rank them in the top 10. IMO.

    So it seems as if you think the preseason rankings ought to really be a list of the order in which teams finished last year.

    That sure sounds interesting.

  23. flash84 says: Jul 20, 2013 6:03 PM

    They should be ranked in the 20’s Horrible team with a Drug addict/cheater coach should have been banned for life!

  24. nawlinssaints1956 says: Jul 20, 2013 6:23 PM

    I would have kept Ivory over Ingram and found a way to keep Chase, but no worries. Bottom line is my squad missed Da Coach, Spags D didn’t work, and Drew made some poor decisions with the football trying to overcome both. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss…

  25. cowartsh says: Jul 20, 2013 6:58 PM

    Good luck with that new defensive coordinator. At least spags had the personnel to fit the scheme. The saints will be a train wreck on defense again this year

  26. thermanmerman99 says: Jul 20, 2013 7:53 PM

    i agree with nawlinssaints1956, not sure why the saints kept that overrated bust ingram over ivory, that was a dumb move. other than that this team is a mystery and it will be interesting to see what happens this year.

  27. cannonballdookie says: Jul 20, 2013 8:25 PM

    This team stinks, they crumpled like a wet paper towel when their coach was suspended, made excuses, and lost to the lowly Kansas City Chiefs, choked when they had a shot at actually making playoffs. I’d expect an improvement this season but I wouldn’t hold my breath, their front 7 is atrocious and guys like Vilma and Will Smith are ten times worse than guys like John Abraham who is still a free agent.

    I’m sure we’ll all hear about how courageous Brees and company are by winning for their coach if they do good this season but fact of the matter is they had the chance to prove everyone wrong last year and instead just decided not to show up.

  28. jsbrasha says: Jul 20, 2013 8:29 PM

    “The have a new defensive scheme”- Translation: The bounty payments have been increased to account for inflation!

  29. coachbeck says: Jul 20, 2013 8:40 PM

    They traded ivory because someone would give up picks for him. Ingram would have gotten a few rolls of tape.

  30. saints12013 says: Jul 20, 2013 9:19 PM

    No Ingram is a little younger and a bit more durable, but is a volume runner. And that is where we run into the problem of using him. He’s the type of back that gets better as the game goes along. He’s not gonna be productive only getting 8-10 carries a game. He needs 15-18 carries to make his presence felt.

  31. jprcox says: Jul 20, 2013 9:22 PM

    I love how people will rank the Patriots high – ONLY because of Brady, yet forget just how good Brees is. Brees and Brady are very comparable to me, and so are their numbers.

    If you are going to rank NE high due to that fact, Saints deserve #9.

  32. saints12013 says: Jul 20, 2013 9:25 PM

    Ya we lost to the lowly Chiefs cause we got robbed when McCluster clearly fumbled and the stupid replacement ref blew the play dead and Roman Harper returned it for a TD. That would’ve been game right there. But of course that game got absolutely zero media coverage cause it wasn’t a nationally televised game like the Green Bay vs Seattle robbing.

  33. saints12013 says: Jul 21, 2013 12:35 PM

    And the Colts handled it better because it was only the head coach who was gone most of the season but still made appearances here and there. He wasn’t suspended. We had a few guys not there. You can’t honestly compare these two circumstances like they are the same. And they were 2-14 the season prior so they played a weak schedule. I can almost guarantee the Colts aren’t 11-5 this season.

  34. lhr4 says: Jul 21, 2013 2:00 PM

    You can’t have the worst Defense in the NFL and still win games. Just ask Dick Vermiel’s Chiefs Circa 2002.

  35. kimbo71006 says: Jul 21, 2013 4:39 PM

    Be scared people, be very scared – the Saints are back and they are going to kick some butt this year.

  36. saintssoaring2012 says: Jul 21, 2013 4:57 PM

    To all the haters… Don’t hate us because our coach was a man and took his ( extreme) punishment like one. Don’t hate us because we have the best QB. Don’t hate us because we have the best TE. Don’t even hate us because our O is AMAZING. Hate us because we are gonna kick y’alls asses! And to the people saying our coach is a drug addict and a cheater. Did the Saints do something against league policy? Yes. Did they do something every team does? Yes. They just got caught.They did the crime,but they also did their time. And as far as Payton being an addict,prove it. That is hearsay. If he did have a problem,he joined MILLIONS of people. If he did have an addiction,how do you know he didn’t get help? And he did have a messed up leg that required pain meds.So unless you don’t drink,don’t get high,don’t pass judgement. You have NO right to call him a druggie. You don’t know him. WHO DAT? SEAN DAT! BELIEVE DAT!

  37. sdisme says: Jul 21, 2013 10:55 PM

    Makes sense. When the Saints won the Superbowl they had the 25th ranked defense.

    The defense doesn’t have to be great, just better. Everyone talks about the the defensive front 7, but the truth is the secondary hasn’t been very good since Dennis Allen left. A blitz seldom works when you have blown coverage.

  38. droyer85 says: Jul 22, 2013 1:58 AM

    What were the Saints ranked preseason in 2009 I wonder? Hmm… they were coming off 8-8 and 7-9 seasons that year. They hired a new defensive coordinator who at the time had never won a super bowl, and it had been years since he led a great defense. There was no buzz surrounding that team. Expectations around the league were for yet another 8-8 type season. They didn’t make any BIG moves in the offseason. They didn’t have Sproles or Jimmy Graham. Their only noteable addition was Darren Sharper to the defense, who was viewed by most as his better years being behind him. But what happened that season? Oh not much, they just won their first 13 games in a row, and went on to win the Super Bowl with a defense that was ranked 25th… just 7 small slots above what their 2012 worst defense in the history of the universe was ranked. And in 2011 they almost did it again with a SUB-PAR defense, again winning 13 games. There isn’t another team in the NFL that could win 7 games with the worst defense ever. The second worst that they passed up on the list was the 1981 Colts. That team won 2 games. The Saints finished 7-9. Not only did that tie them with 2 other teams in their own division who didn’t have the worst defenses ever, and those teams had their head coaches and zero offseason turmoil… but they finished with a better record than 10+ other teams in the NFL.

  39. sloppydogg says: Jul 23, 2013 7:26 AM

    Everything that could have possibly gone wrong for the Saints last year did so no excuses for that. Now with Sean back an a new defensive coach people are still counting us out thinking our defense will be the same not so. Sean did not have the pleasure to coach with Steve last season so the chemistry was not their to fuel both sides of the ball. Now with Sean & Rob having a full off season working together that defense will be better, and Sean had all of last year to see other teams from a fans point of view do you really think he did nothing but watch the games an see his team get clobbered I truly don”t think so. What is not broken will not be fix, but the things that are broken you bet your candy a_ _ will be fix with a added bonus to them. I”m very excited about this season, an if you’re not YOU WILL MISS THE GREATEST SHOW ON TURF…….

  40. veroniesr says: Aug 17, 2013 1:25 PM

    Hey Saints fans.. Let them trash talking about our team. They trashed talked in 2009 and said we will choke in playoff and our result We won Super Bowl. I love when they GULPS when we win. We know our team are elite for super bowl with Sean back combining with Bree. They re asking for catagory 9 Hurricane coming . Whos Dat Rules!

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